Recent investigations into nineteenth-century juvenile delinquency have tended to focus on how the image of the delinquent was represented through the judicial process and the language of institutional reform. The argument has been that the delinquent was an antithetical creation of middle-class views about childhood, family, criminality, and punishment. What has been overlooked in the discussion is how working-class audiences represented young men who committed crimes. Broadside ballads, a form of working-class street poetry, are unique in that they create representations of youthful criminality from within the community whence young convicts originated. This article looks at four different types of broadside ballads: valedictory, betrayal, confessional, and satirical ballads that offer fresh and unique ways of understanding youthful criminality, convictism, and penal transportation within working-class culture.
- Broadside ballads